Brent Metcalf takes on Magomed Kurbanaliev of Russia during the Beat the Streets wrestling exhibition at Times Square on May 7, 2014 in New York City.
NEW YORK -- As a kid, Jordan Burroughs stared in awe at the Times Square billboards whenever he visited New York City, just an hour and a half from his hometown of Camden, New Jersey.
In the final match of the “Beat the Streets” wrestling meet Wednesday night in Times Square, the hundreds of fans gathered in the heart of New York City were staring in awe at Burroughs when 2012 Olympic gold medalist drove Russia’s Atsamaz Sanakoev straight from his feet to his back to pin him with just two seconds remaining in their match.
|Jordan Oliver takes on Magomed Kurbanaliev of Russia during
the Beat the Streets wrestling exhibition at Times Square on May
7, 2014 in New York City.
Burroughs got up, raised his arms and thanked the approving crowd as fans erupted in a “U-S-A, U-S-A” chant.
“It’s great to be home, so I had to put on a show for my friends and family,” Burroughs said. “I still remember buying Nuts4Nuts from all these stands around here, so for me to wrestle on this stage on this big of a platform is a blessing.”
Wednesday’s meeting between Team USA and the World All-Stars marked the fifth consecutive year in which a major international-style wrestling competition was held in New York City. The first event, in 2010, was held on the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier docked on the west side of Manhattan. The 2011 meet was the first sporting event to be held at Times Square, and the 2012 event was there too, before it moved to Grand Central Terminal in 2013.
However, this year’s Beat the Streets marked the first time it was held on Broadway and 43rd Street. When the event was held in Times Square before, it was a few blocks down. Brent Metcalf, who competed in both events, said there wasn’t as much room for fans at the old location.
“Two years ago, you had all the taxis driving right by the mat, and I remember thinking if I threw this guy into a taxi, he might die,” Metcalf, a member of the 2010 and 2013 U.S. World Teams, said. “Plus, I think it gets the crowd involved more here. You get a lot of support here and you know that there’s big time supporters in the crowd, and that makes you feel good, so it’s a lot of fun when you’re out there wrestling.”
|Logan Stieber and Haislan Garcia of Canada compete during the
Beat the Streets wrestling exhibition at Times Square on May 7,
2014 in New York City.
But while throwing opponents into taxis wasn’t a concern at the new location, the wrestlers had another distraction: a massive H&M ad that extended for nearly the entire block with a picture of a bikini model. Ed Ruth, who defeated Spain’s Taymuraz Friev 10-0, busted out laughing when asked if the ad was a distraction.
“Yeah, of course I kept looking up at her (during the match),” Ruth joked. “She’s right there, so you can’t miss it.”
But whether or not the taxis, billboards or atmosphere of Times Square distracted the wrestlers, the U.S. team put on a show by winning eight of the 11 matches.
One of the impressed fans in the crowd was UFC President Dana White. Not only are some of the top UFC fighters former wrestlers, but White is also a major fan of the sport and was a major financial donor to help save the sport when its Olympic future was in jeopardy last year.
“I’ve always said to the wrestling guys that they need to switch things up, they need to think outside the box, and this is definitely outside the box,” White said. “If you held this in one of the buildings around here, I bet a lot of people wouldn’t show up. But outside, why not hang out and watch some elite wrestling in Times Square? It’s awesome, and wrestling is a big part of the UFC and mixed martial arts.”
Nearly all of the wrestlers, after their matches, went up and shook White’s hand. Some of them have shared aspirations of possibly going into MMA after their wrestling careers. Others said they’ve never even considered it. And then there were the wrestlers like Metcalf who just wanted White to tweet them.
“I’m new to the Tweetersphere, but if I could just get him to tweet me back, I’d be good, right?” Metcalf joked. “So Dana, you’ve got to tweet me, and then I can retweet you, and then we’re tweeting friends.”
But while the atmosphere allowed for fun and joking between the wrestlers for one night, they are now finalizing preparations for the U.S. World Team Trials May 31-June 1 in Madison, Wisconsin. The U.S. World Team Trials will determine men’s and women’s freestyle athletes who will compete at the 2014 World Wrestling Championship in September in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, as well as the U.S. national teams for the 2014-15 campaign in men's freestyle and women's freestyle.